If you’re starting college in the next week or two, you’re in for one of the greatest experiences of your life. Yet there are also many unknowns. It’s understandable if you’re a little nervous.

That’s especially true if you’re going away to school, but it applies even if you plan to live at home and take classes locally. (Nothing wrong with that, by the way.) The differences between the way college functions and what you’ve experienced over the last four years, though welcome, may at times seem overwhelming.

For example, after your first week of classes, even if you’re attending full-time, you’ll likely feel as though you have vast amounts of “free time”— especially in comparison to your high school years, when you were basically imprisoned for eight hours a day.

In college, a full-time load means you’re only in class about 15 hours a week. You might have entire mornings or afternoons “off” or a four-hour break between classes.

Be careful not to allow the illusion of “free time” to lull you into a false sense of complacency. Remember, for every hour in class, most professors expect you to spend two hours reading, studying, and doing homework outside of class.

Once the semester gets cranked up, all that “free time” will evaporate like a gentle rain on a hot Summer day.

In fact, even though you’re not actually in class all day, paradoxically, the work load may well start to seem overwhelming. Two hours outside of class for each hour in is just a general guideline. Some professors assign much more work than that.

You’ll have days when you wonder if you can possibly study for all those tests and get all those papers written — especially since everything is due around the same time.

Don’t sweat it too much. You CAN do it, provided you recognize early on that those seemingly boundless “free” hours aren’t really free at all. They’re for getting work done.

Another potential eye-opener is that, while most of your professors will be very nice, a few of them won’t be. Yes, that’s true of high school teachers, too, to an extent, but the difference is that college professors don’t have to be nice. Especially if they have tenure, they can be as hard to get along with as they want to be.

You may also feel like they don’t care about you — although, for the most part, that’s not true. Most of your professors want you to succeed. They’re just not going to hold your hand, check up on you or worry much if you don’t show up. In their minds, whether or not you get your work done or attend class is up to you, not them.

In other words, perhaps for the first time in your life, people are going to treat you like an adult. I recommend that you behave like one.

Rob Jenkins is a local writer and college professor. The views expressed here are his own. You can email Rob at rob.jenkins@outlook.com.